Continuous pace training after failure

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    There are a number of hybrid training concepts in sports and weight training programs. Many of these hybrid programs simply mash together 2 or more existing methods to elicit a presumed response. Weight training (i.e. bodybuilding) programs have explored a wide range of concepts over the last 50 years. Unfortunately, many trainers overly generalize the goal of each program. For instance, from a physiological standpoint, a “hypertrophy” program can be broken down into many different components that can each be trained differently. A “hypertrophy” program may actually focus on “sarcoplasmic” or “myofibril” development. Within these 2 subsets, there are a number of physiological components that may be developed.

    The USRPT programming method is very good at limiting detrimental fatigue. Glycogen is a severely limited energy source not because it is readily available to muscle while converting into ATP at a rate 100 times faster than oxygen in the Kerbs cycle. Glycogen suffers from 2 fatal drawbacks: 1) a unit of glycogen can only be used by the muscle fiber in which it is stored and 2) glycogen recovery rates are extremely slow (12-48) hours.

    Again, by using a target pace standard for failures, USRPT limits the use of glycogen in all distances except “sprint”. Even sprint training can spare glycogen when efforts are less than 6-8 seconds. A swimmer who continues to swim after missing their target pace, at slower speeds with shorter rest, is essentially completing a “drop-set” which is a staple in bodybuilding. Continuing to swim, or workout, in this state further depletes glycogen and exacerbates “detrimental fatigue”.

    However, a competitive swim event is one to failure using all available resources – usually before oxidative kinetics are fully engaged. Standard USRPT programming is excellent for building technical, motor neuron, muscle fiber oxidative, and central respiratory capacities. It is not optimally structured to build sarcoplasmic glycogen capacities.

    Some may have noticed Michael Andrew using tourniquet straps on his arms in the videos leading up to Pan Pac swimming championships. While the “kaatsu” method is controversial, and limited research has only shown value in injury rehabilitation, what he is actually doing is a “glycogen wipe” by slowing the rate that oxygenated blood enters muscle. Lower oxygen mobility forces the skeletal muscle to use locally stored energy in the form of glycogen.

    Let’s program a “glycogen wipe” for the rest of us using hybrid programming. This will best simulate the very end of a race, both mentally and physically. This should only be used in the last USRPT set of a practice although programs with longer recovery breaks (5+ minutes) may be able to use it after every USRPT set.

    1) Program a set N x ##. Let’s say 20 x 50’s, target pace :30 on a :50 interval. The set can go to 1, 2, or 3 failures per standard USRPT programming. After the 3rd failure or 20 reps are complete, rest 2 additional minutes.
    2) Conduct a continuous swim at the same pace, :30 per 50y/m until failure. Some athletes may go 60-75y/m until failure, others 100-125y/m.
    3) After 2 minutes of rest, this can be attempted again but will be extremely stressful and may impact sessions up to 24 hours later.

    This is also a method to induce failure for a swimmer who is going to complete all the set reps without a miss. If the swimmer is at rep 18 of 20 tell them to complete the last 2 reps as a continuous swim to failure.

    Other guidelines:
    Don’t use this until athletes are “conditioned”, probably at least 1 month into a season.
    Don’t use it on Monday.
    Don’t use 1-2 weeks before an important meet.
    Ideally, use when athletes are ending a microcycle and they are completing higher volumes or as a new stress during a minor training plateau.
    Make sure the athlete focuses on the same technical element used in the main set.
    I wouldn’t use this for sprints – program progressively shorter rest periods instead. If you are doing N x 20 sprints on a :80 then next session go N x 20 on a :70 then next session on a :60 etc. Then N x 25 while dropping the rest period.


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